Thanks to West Coast Native News
for republishing this article to their website.
By now, everyone has heard the shocking news that 9.5 million liters (2.5 million gallons) of produced water (also known as industrial waste water) has leaked into 42 hectares of land a few miles southwest of Zama City in Alberta. For those who don’t know, produced water is a toxic combination of salt water, oil and chemicals that is a byproduct that occurs when oil is extracted from the ground.
Before we take a look at the environmental disaster itself, let’s take a look at the area of land that’s been damaged. Now, 42 hectares of land may not sound like that big of a deal, but when it’s put into understandable terms, the reason for alarm is clear.
To give readers an idea of the size of land at the center of this situation, 42 hectares is the equivalent of 0.1621 square miles (according to the website AskNumbers.com).
That may not sound like much but that’s just the initial area that’s saturated with 9.5 million liters (2.5 million gallons) of toxic byproduct. To help readers understand the size of land that’s had 9.5 million liters (2.5 million gallons) of toxic byproduct spilled into it, I suggest we make things a little more concrete by heading off to Toronto for this example.
If you draw a straight line across Gerrard Street West between University Avenue and Elizabeth Street, that’s 0.15 miles.
If you draw a straight line down University Avenue between Gerrard Street West and Elm Street, that’s 0.11 miles.
When you multiply 0.15 miles by 0.11 miles, the result is 0.0165 square miles.
And do you know what is situated on that particular 0.016 square miles in downtown Toronto? The Hospital for Sick Children.
Now put 9 hospitals about the size of the Hospital for Sick Children together. Take a good look at that because that is how much land has been poisoned.
If I didn’t have your attention before this, I’m certain I have your attention now!
Undoubtedly, many will say it’s not fair to compare buildings (even hospital buildings) to land somewhere in Northern Alberta, but I say it is.
In northern Alberta where this disaster has happened, every plant and tree has died according to Chief James Ahnassay. The environment is what matters to those who love the land and the living things the land sustains.
According to the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the spill was reported by Apache Corporation of Texas on June 1, 2013. However, that information wasn’t released to the public until June 12, 2013 when the ERCB issued a media release (click HERE to read the media release).
To be fair to the ERCB, the agency claims that they weren’t made aware of the size of the leak until 10 days after they were initially contacted.
Meanwhile, back at the scene of the crime, Apache Corporation has moved in a 6,300-cubic-metre tank to hold the waste water being pumped out of the ground … for a spill that is described as being 9,480 cubic meters of produced water. Not having any insider information on this situation, I’m hoping this means that they will properly dispose of the initial 6,300 cubic meters of waste water, and then return to pump out the last 3,180 cubic meters of waste water left behind.
That being said, I’m not sure anyone will ever know if that’s how Apache Corporation intends to address this situation. After all, Apache Corporation refused a request by CBC News to see the pipeline responsible for the spill.
And just as I wrote two weeks ago in the article, “Fighting To Protect The Land” we have to ask with whom the provincial and federal governments’ loyalties lie. Is it with the people, or is it with corporations and profits?
If the provincial and federal governments aren’t certain that charges will be laid against Apache Corporation for this disaster, how can we trust that the provincial and federal governments will be responsible stewards of the land if FIPPA is ratified?
FIPPA: The deal that would allow Chinese companies to sue provincial and federal governments if the governments do anything that threatens their company’s profits.
Meanwhile, Dene Tha First Nation located in the remote community of Chateh (formerly known as Assumption), Alberta are making certain that what has happened in their community won’t be swept under the carpet with slick sleight-of-hand spin-doctoring.